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Message from the President

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THREE KINDS OF AMEN.

Wanting to be true to God, ourselves and one another we hope to say our “Amens” at the right time and in the right way.

A friend once helpfully conveyed that there are three kinds of Amens, or saying “yes” to God in daily life. I found his framework very interpretative of the spiritual life.

First, there are those Amens which are spontaneous. That might be because what is asked is congenial and attractive. Something we do well and find meaningful.

For example, things we are familiar with like, perhaps, being asked to write an article, host a meeting, provide hospitality or join a delegation to assist vulnerable people.

These “Amens”, whatever they are, repeat themselves and become part of how we live a meaningful life. But also, as we know from the Bible, sometimes the divine call is so vivid that we simply must respond.

Recent Sunday stories include the call of Isaiah who hears the voice of the Lord( Isaiah 6:1-8) , Paul who sees and hears the raised Jesus( I Cor 15 : 1-11) and the disciple Simon Peter , called by Jesus while fishing.( Luke 5:1-11). In all three bible stories, as for us, the divine presence illuminates personal inadequacies. But yet, like Isaiah, Paul and Simon Peter, we are still compelled to say “yes”.

God’s call can come in an unattended moment.

Hence Jesus advice in various passages, including Mark 13:33 that we “watch and pray”, developing our spiritual discipline so we are better prepared to make our spontaneous response of “Amen”, when the call comes. 

God calls as and when God chooses. We say our “yes” trusting that the One who calls is faithful and loves us. God’s will is good will.

A second kind of “Amen”?

An “Amen” that will involve us is making changes. We intuit these changes may be demanding and will take time, but are necessary.

Sometimes this involves facing fears in ourselves in order to do what is necessary; perhaps to speak out about a justice matter where previously we have felt too frightened of criticism or rejection. Sometimes it means stopping certain activities.

For example, at a recent funeral of a fine Church leader, a friend recalled how this leader once quietly came to him and said: “You must stop gossiping. This is what now defines your reputation”. He knew the truth of this feedback. He knew this meant he was demeaning his own vocation and call. He made the change over time, demanding as such changes are.

Patterns of habitual thinking are hard to change but what we think does shape what we then will say and do. These patterns, over time, therefore shape our character and our destiny. We do become what we think.

Paul had to change his whole mindset in order to be true to Jesus, who had called him.

Relatedly, we see socially the destructive consequences of ungodly thinking. Imagine an Australia without any “hate speech”! Imagine a safe nation without a trace of antisemitism! Saying our “Amen” to that involves quite a journey - from intention to the sustained outcome.

But this is God’s will. God who makes us as one human family, all carrying the divine likeness… Racism, like sexism is such a cruel folly. Imagine an Australia free of it all! What hope that would give the rest of the world!

A third kind of “Amen” are those callings that are on the horizon, so to speak.

We may be able to see them coming but they are not here yet. They may be challenges or changes we are still being prepared for.

When we went walking on the Camino we met many people who were making that pilgrimage at a time of transition. They intuited that they needed to give themselves space with God to be a little clearer about what came next.

I remember different conversations with youngsters from Milwaukee and Seoul. They were walking the 600kms to be sure about what they thought was Gods will .They wanted their “yes” to be wholehearted.

Our God is always calling us into deeper communion with God and with one another. The divine plan is for the most beautiful unity in our diversity.

God leaves us utterly free as to if, when and how wholeheartedly we respond to God’s goodwill. So, in daily life there come those moments when we can make our “Amen.”

Sometimes spontaneously, sometimes after a demanding journey, and sometimes, we can see an “Amen” on the horizon.

Our prayer is, as Jesus taught us to pray, that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven.

To this we say our “Amen”, however it comes!

 

Bishop Philip Huggins.

President, National Council of Churches in Australia